At least 5 killed after Nicole makes historic, rare November landfall in Florida
The second hurricane to hit Florida this season crashed ashore under the cover of darkness. As the sun rose on Thursday, the power of Nicole could be seen as homes teetered on the ocean's edge and thousands remained without power.
Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer reported from Melbourne Beach as storm surge, wind and rain kicked into high gear throughout the area late Wednesday night.
Nicole is continuing its destructive journey across the eastern United States with multiple fatalities and significant damage reported across the region. Nicole made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane before sunrise on Thursday and has since lost wind intensity, and is now a tropical depression as the storm's center moves over Georgia. Its destructive winds and heavy rains toppled homes and piers along the coast into the ocean and created widespread damage across the state.
An unresponsive man was pronounced dead Thursday morning after being shocked by a downed power line in Conway, Florida, which is just outside of Orlando, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO). A woman traveling with the man was also electrocuted and later died at a hospital.
“We are urging all of our residents and visitors to use extreme caution if they are outside in the wake of the storm today,” the office wrote in a social media post. “Never touch a downed power line. If you are driving and see a downed power line, change directions immediately.”
Authorities in Orange County, Florida, said that two more people have been killed in a storm-related incident. Florida Highway Patrol said a pickup truck driving on the turnpike around 5:30 a.m. swerved toward the shoulder of Florida's Turnpike after losing control and struck a driver of a tow truck who was standing behind his parked truck. Both drivers were killed. The crash remains under investigation.
The fifth death was reported by the Cocoa Police Department after a woman called 9-1-1 around 4:33 a.m. reporting that her husband was in distress, according to the station. The police and firefighters found the woman and her 68-year-old husband on their yacht that was docked at Lee Wenner Park, the waves tossing the boat about. Firefighters managed to board the vessel and start CPR on the man, though the yacht broke loose from the dock and began to drift off. Responders were able to secure the boat, and the couple was transported to the hospital where the man was pronounced dead. The cause of death is not yet confirmed.
Nicole’s damage was becoming clear as daylight on Thursday morning revealed homes left teetering over the Atlantic Ocean in one community along Florida’s east coast. The homes were at risk of collapsing in Wilbur-By-The-Sea, located just south of Daytona Beach Shores, after the storm’s erosion made damage left behind Ian just about one month prior all the worse.
Power outages climbed into the hundreds of thousands across the Sunshine State early Thursday while Nicole continued its destructive journey inland. As of Friday morning, approximately 51,000 remained without power in the Sunshine State.
Shortly after making landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Vero Beach along Florida’s east coast early Thursday morning, Nicole lost wind intensity and became a tropical storm. Even though Nicole didn’t sustain the hurricane status for long, it was still impacting a large area of the Southeast with strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surge.
Nicole made its first landfall as a tropical storm just before noon on Wednesday in Elbow Cay on the Great Abaco Island, which is located in the northern Bahamas, according to the Bahamas Department of Meteorology. The island is the same location where Hurricane Dorian made landfall as a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 185 mph on Sept. 1, 2019.
On Tuesday, Nicole was a massive storm, spanning more than 486 miles in diameter, according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski. By Tuesday afternoon, Nicole strengthened into a tropical storm, packing wind speeds of 50 mph.
At 12:20 p.m. EST Wednesday, strong tropical-storm-force winds of around 50 mph and flooding were reported at Leonard Thompson International Airport in Marsh Harbour. Storm surges inundated the island, with many reported as high as 4 to 6 feet above normal tide.
By 6 p.m. EST Wednesday, Nicole was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph as it drew closer to the Florida coast.
The outer edge of Hurricane Nicole’s eyewall began to breach the Florida coast near Port St. Lucie around 1 a.m. EST Thursday, beginning the landfall process. However, official landfall didn’t occur for another two hours. Nicole officially made landfall at North Hutchinson Island, Florida, which is about 65 miles north of West Palm Beach, at 3 a.m. EST.
It took nearly two hours for Nicole to make its official landfall because the eyewall was so large, AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said, estimating it to be about 60-80 miles in diameter. Typically, the eyewall of a hurricane is approximately 20-40 miles in diameter.
Extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer reported from Melbourne Beach as blankets of rain could be seen flying past his camera. The storm surge, wind and rain started to kick into high gear as the eyewall approached the coast.
“This is where I expect the most dangerous onshore winds to happen,” Timmer said in a video while the wind could be heard blowing past him. “I also expect the most substantial storm surge to be across this area.”
As Nicole made landfall, wind gusts over 70 mph were recorded along Florida’s east coast. The highest wind gust was measured at weather stations on NASA towers at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. One weather station, located about 120 feet above ground level, near the Artemis I moon rocket, reported a wind gust of 100 mph.
The Artemis I moon rocket is designed to withstand winds up to 85 mph at an elevation of 60 feet. Jim Free, a NASA associate administrator for exploration systems development, stated on Thursday that the maximum wind gust recorded 60 feet above the ground at the launch pad was 82 mph. While just 4 mph shy, this is within the rocket’s designed capability. In a social media post, Free said camera footage at the launch pad showed very minor damage. NASA said a team will conduct further inspections on the vehicle soon to determine if the rocket sustained any additional damage during Nicole.
Other NASA towers in the region gusted between 70 and 100 mph.
Outside of Cape Canaveral, an amateur weather station at Daytona Beach recorded a wind gust of 84 mph. Winds gusted to 73 mph at the Melbourne Airport, 67 at Patrick Air Force Base and 66 at the Orlando Executive Airport.
Gusty winds and heavy rain made for numerous power outages and damage across Melbourne Beach, Florida, late Wednesday into early Thursday. Video from storm chaser Brandon Clement showed traffic lights being tossed around in the gusty winds. The wind picked up one traffic light, which was connected to the rest with just a wire before it slammed back onto the pavement. Streetlights across the city could be seen flickering as the wind continued to impact the region.
According to PowerOutage.US, out of the more than 350,000 customers without power across Florida on Thursday morning, nearly 24% of them reside in Brevard County, which is home to Melbourne Beach and the Space Coast.
As of Thursday evening, rainfall totals were over 9 inches in some parts of Florida, including Saint Augustine and Crystal Springs.
Combined with high tide, the storm surge reached far past the beaches along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. As waves crashed down on the roadways during high tide on Thursday, the asphalt was ripped apart, making roads impassable. Officers closed the roadways to the public during this time.
Kelly James, a resident of Vilano Beach, Florida, which is just southeast of Jacksonville, told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell that all the roads she usually takes to get home from the local hospital she works at were blocked off.
“High tide really wreaked havoc on everything here. Most of the dunes seem to be gone. Part of the road behind us is gone,” James told Wadell. “This is definitely the worst that we’ve seen here.”
And it wasn’t just the roadways in Vilano Beach that were crumbled from Nicole. Just northeast of Orlando, in Volusia County, bridges and beachside roads were closed on Thursday due to unsafe conditions. On Friday morning, some roads and bridges were reopened in Volusia County. Areas of the Atlantic Avenue in Wilbur-by-the-Sea and Daytona Beach Shores remained blocked to non-residents as damage assessments and recovery were ongoing. Residents can access the roadways with proof of residency.
Wadell spoke with Jared W. Perdue, the secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation in Marineland, who said even though erosion is creating issues on the A1A road, the department is trying to make repairs that will make the road more resilient in the future.
“Following the temporary repairs after the road is open to traffic, we’ll come in and effect permanent repairs and that’s something the governor has had extremely strong leadership on is making sure we’re building for a resilient future in terms of infrastructure,” said Perdue.
Perdue explained several different approaches to ensure the longevity of the road. Using seawalls and revetments, like rocks and boulders, help protect water from getting on the road. But also, the beach provides a great protective measure. Making sure that all of those things are getting back in place will “help the road stay intact.”
Nicole's landfall comes just over a month after Hurricane Ian wreaked havoc on Florida's southwest coast. Exasperated, hurricane-weary Floridians were still recovering from the damage wrought by Hurricane Ian just six weeks ago.
George Karamitos said his surf shop in Daytona Beach took a bit of a hit from Hurricane Ian, sustaining "several hundred dollars' worth" of damage.
"So many of us didn't take Ian as seriously as we should have, and so we had a lot more damage as a result of that," he told AccuWeather National Reporter Jillian Angeline. "We haven't even gotten a chance to make the repairs yet."
A traffic light is left dangling and swaying as Hurricane Nicole's intense winds and torrential rains move through St. Augustine, Florida, early Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022. (Brandon Clement)
Angeline captured footage of endangered homes early Thursday after the sun rose and Nicole had moved into central Florida. Several beachside homes in the coastal community of Wilbur-By-The-Sea in Volusia County were on the verge of collapsing into the ocean -- and several of them had collapsed into the ocean by mid-morning.
"With daylight comes a look at Nicole's power in Wilbur-By-The-Sea," Angeline wrote in a tweet. "These homes weakened by Ian are looking worse."
Angeline was reporting live on Nicole's damages as the homes could be seen dangling over the Atlantic in the backdrop.
“Ian compromised the seawall, so I think if the storm had just come on its own, we actually would have been fine,” Krista Goodrich the owner of Salty Dog Vacations and Coastal Ventures Property Management said to Angeline. “But with the dunes already been gone and the sea walls already collapsed, this came through and so, like next door, the back half of the house fell into the ocean last night. and if that wall had not been collapsed during Ian, that would not have happened.”
Homes at risk of collapsing along Florida coast.
Despite November being the final month of the Atlantic hurricane season, it has been quite busy so far, with three systems reaching hurricane strength.
Lisa formed on the last day of October as a tropical storm before strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane and making landfall in Belize on Nov. 2. Hurricane Martin formed as a tropical storm on Nov. 1. Then a day later, Martin strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane in the North Atlantic Ocean before it became an extratropical storm that brought heavy rain and gusty winds to parts of the United Kingdom. Nicole became the third hurricane of the month on Wednesday.
AccuWeather meteorologists began warning about a tropical threat as early as Nov. 3, when a tropical rainstorm formed over Puerto Rico after forecasters began closely scrutinizing the Caribbean for potential tropical development during the middle of October. Over the weekend, the storm continued to grow, unleashing downpours across the island and parts of the Caribbean. By Monday, the storm was classified as a subtropical storm and was named Nicole by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
AccuWeather forecasters warned that Nicole would strengthen into a hurricane and make landfall in Florida before the week was over. As the National Weather Service (NWS) issued hurricane warnings for Florida's Atlantic coast, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Monday for 34 counties that were in the forecasted line of impact.
Three tropical systems in eight days is an occurrence more typical of August, which is climatologically one of the most active months for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. But this past August, for the first time in 25 years, there were no named tropical storms in the basin. According to AccuWeather forecasters, atmospheric conditions were "too hostile" to support tropical development across the basin in August.
"This is crazy to me," Geoffrey Bowling of Fort Pierce, Florida, told AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell. "I never really thought I'd have to deal with a hurricane in November."
Nicole became the third hurricane on record to make landfall in Florida in the month of November when it made landfall early Thursday morning. Previously, Hurricane Kate made landfall on Nov. 21, 1985, and the 1935 "Yankee Hurricane" made landfall on Nov. 4, 1935.
According to Colorado State University Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach, Nicole is now the only storm in recorded history to make landfall on the state's east coast after Nov. 4. Kate made landfall on Nov. 21, but along the Florida Panhandle near the town of Mexico Beach, Klotzbach noted. Kate is the only hurricane on record to make landfall in the continental United States that late in an Atlantic hurricane season.
Additional reporting by Bill Wadell and Jillian Angeline.
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